The Piolo Pascual-Toni Gonzaga movie Last Night is not a film about infidelity. It is film about romanticizing suicide.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, know what a visual treat this film is, but what a baffling experience it is trying to make sense of its sudden turns and numerous implausibilities.
But after all that, it is an enjoyable plunge, murky water and all.
It begins ridiculously enough to merit serious attention.
One night, thirty-something Mark Peters (Piolo Pascual) is about to kill himself by jumping off Jones Bridge, but his attempt is foiled by the distress call of Carmina Salvador (Toni Gonzaga), who is hanging by her jacket off a signboard just below the bridge. After Mark rescues her, she reveals her miserable failure at killing herself.
Instead of immediately parting ways with Mark, Carmina latches on to him, and as they spend time together over the next couple of days, they make several attempts at dying together.
Emotionally drained after their last failed effort, Mark begins to unload his grief and take solace in Carmina’s companionship. Carmina does not give away her own secrets, but continues to find a way for suicide to happen in the least painful way possible. When Mark begins having second thoughts about suicide, things take a strange turn.
Last Night stuns with its elegant photography and production design. The hidden beauty of Manila captured in somber color palettes and dimly-lit scenes lend an eerie and nostalgic mood to the film.
Despite the harried progression of the plot, the film is held together by the powerful screen presence and onscreen chemistry of the lead actors. In their limited screen time together, Piolo and Toni manage to create an intimacy strong enough to draw tears, as revelations are dropped like corrosive matter on open wounds.
Even at times when the acting is hammy, we are left nonetheless charmed. We sink deeper into our seat, wanting to see them sit in that hotel room, that cafe, that heritage restaurant with the jukebox, for just for a little while longer before something else happens.
Just when you think the film is prepared to go the straight down the moralizing route via a life-changing epiphany for both Mark and Carmina, the film takes a sudden turn which, while not entirely original, is a twist not seen recently.
And it is refreshing.
While there is a stroke of brilliance in this unravelling, it also feels forced, the audience not having been prepared for it by way of greater character development and narrative building.
There is no strong justification for the events that will make us suspend disbelief and throw ourselves wholeheartedly into the tragedy of the two characters.
In an effort too, to be different, Last Night ultimately becomes unsure of what it wants to be: Is it a romantic comedy with a touch of drama? Is it a black comedy with a touch of romance? Or is it supposed to be a horror movie with all of above?
With character development, it does not really set itself apart from other rom-coms where a serious guy is balanced out by a kenkoy female.
Carmina would have been an interesting character if her personality had been developed to be unique to her. As it is, she is just another wacky Toni Gonzaga character transplanted in a different movie under a different name.
Last Night is heartwarming where it counts and moving where it is supposed to be. Suicide is rarely dealt with in films in this way. Often, suicide is a straight-out black comedy or a melodramatic tragedy.
Despite its flaws, the film is a brave attempt at exploring themes of love, death, and self-forgiveness.
See it to have a good cry. Afterwards, look up the places in Escolta featured in the film and visit them to have a nice time.
BONUS: You won’t look at Jones Bridge the same way again.
Directed by Joyce Bernal from a script by Bela Padilla, Star Cinema’s Last Night is graded B by the Cinema Evaluation Board.
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